– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m not on a blogtour, but doing my own interview with Gary Gautier, author of ‘Love’s Ragged Claws’, to promote his book.
Before I let you read my Q&As, I’ll first post some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
New Orleans native and world traveler, Gary Gautier has taught writing and literature several universities and has published books for adults and children. Love’s Ragged Claws was shortlisted (top 10) for the Faulkner-Wisdom Prize. Gary has had a children’s book featured in the Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Market, a scholarly book selected for Edwin Mellen Press’s Studies in British Literature series, and a screen adaptation of his novel, Mr. Robert’s Bones, was selected to the second round (top 10%) at the Austin Film Festival. Gary has hitchhiked through 16 countries and 35 states, run two marathons, and once, due to a series of misadventures, spent 6 months as chef at a French restaurant.
Faulkner-Wisdom Prize finalist (literary fiction).
In this short novella, Gabriel enters confession for the first time in 50 years and tells the priest he has only three sins to confess, all sins of the flesh. The confession doesn’t end as the priest might have wished, but it opens up the byways of human identity and human connection as it weaves the tale of a lifetime, following the characters across their lives from the hippie 1970s to the timeworn present. (Adult language and situations)
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
After 10 years in bars and restaurants, 10 years teaching at universities, and 10 years as a senior technical writer, I gave away all my stuff and flew to Europe with my backpack. In these past four years, I’ve hitchhiked through 14 countries and taught at two more universities (in Germany and Mexico). Writing is never a thing in itself for me. It all weaves together. Hitchhiking around, writing, teaching, more vagaboding, finding the artists and writers in a new country, then more writing, then … You get the idea. Getting a Ph.D. in literature definitely helped with contacts and learning the ropes, but that turns out to be a lesser thread among many.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
As a kid, I loved Dr. Seuss and other books that play with the sound of language as much as the content. As an adult, I read mostly classics: Plato and Boethius, Shakespeare and Dickens, Austen and Woolf. More recently (i.e., within the past half-century), celebrated works like Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon or Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, and offbeat works like Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar or Ed Buryn’s wildly alternative travel guide, Vagabonding in Europe and North Africa.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Let’s go big. Shakespeare. He integrates all threads. Classical and romantic sensibilities. Exterior plot and interior depths. Incredibly witty and deeply moving. Intellectual and emotional. A rich grasp of human nature and its cultural embeddedness, and a rich talent for expressing it just right. And unlike some solitary authors, he was working in a social context, learning, sharing, passing things on to younger playwrights in the company. Without naming names, I think some great writers would be a bit glum compared to a night full of heavy ale and hearty laughter with Shakespeare.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
To put a plug in the previous question, I’ll start by saying definitely not Hamlet. No fun there. Maybe Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Ramsay. She seems the tea-drinking type. Also she has that “presence” that would make the moment timeless. With a transcendental beauty that resonates more of archetypes than of physical beauty. And all the lovely little complications – her very presence expresses the beauty of Victorian femininity and the need to put the trap of that femininity out to pasture, her deep connection to the people around her and her utter solitude. Yes, let’s go with Mrs. Ramsay. Just leave the rest of that family out of it 😊.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
I’m still looking for one, so let me know if you find a good one. I often have long periods of day-job work before I get back to a project, and then breaking the inertia – getting the whole world of that project, with all the characters and all the geological layers of the landscape, back into my head – I wish I had a ritual for that, but it’s a new struggle every time. I do like to write in wide-open library spaces though, if that counts as a ritual.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
Sometimes it starts with a quirky character and then I start throwing that character into odd situations to see what happens. Sometimes it starts with a situation or a connection between characters that resonates at some philosophical or emotional depth that calls for more. Sometimes it starts with just a setting that seems dripping with symbolic meaning. Most of my characters take traits from me, from people I’ve known, and from fictional characters that have left a mark on me, all jumbled into a composite that might be quite different from any those sources in terms of moral valence or how they react to situations. People in my life only need worry if they see one superficial trait taken from them and then assume that the character as a whole “is me.” Unfortunately, I fear to think how many people in my life are prone to do just that.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
Sorry to hedge, but both. It probably starts when some character or place triggers something and I just freewrite a bit (pantser). From that point on, I always need to sketch a plot to give me a sense of direction (plotter). I always need a clear sense of direction (plotter) and always need to be ready to change direction quickly and completely (pantser), depending on where the characters go. Sometimes a character will simply disregard my plan and drag me kicking and screaming in a different direction. In these cases, the character is always right. So then comes a new plot sketch.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
I don’t really feel qualified, but I would just say to do it for the love, not the fortune or fame. If you love expressing those creative juices in your own way, you will always love what you are doing, and fortune and fame will come (or not come) as they will. If fortune or fame becomes the primary goal, the statistical odds are that you will spend your writing life in a state of frustration.
What are your futureplans as an author?
I always have many logs in the fire. My genre has always been “literary fiction.” (By “literary,” I don’t mean “better” but a certain style – where the value lies not in the conventions of genre nor even in the story that gets told, but in the way it gets told. Generally, less about “what happens” and more an exploration of the subjective spaces within and between characters. Woolf would be an example, to draw on someone I’ve mentioned. So the tag doesn’t tell you how good a book is, but it does give important info per reader expectations.) However, there’s often some crossover or integration of other genres into the piece of literary fiction I’m working on. My novel, Hippies, for example used many tools of historical fiction. Now I’m working on a post-apocalyptic adult hippie fairy tale, but it will still be “literary fiction” in terms of the lightness of focus on plot and closure.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
Eva gazed out from her cabin window in Colorado. She could see a few rooftops of the town, and in the distance, the forest, thick with blue spruce and bristlecone pines.
Funny how she knew Gabriel’s knock, how deeply embedded it was in the rings of her memory. She opened the door, and there he was, a little older than the last time, but still willowy tall with arms thrown about, a patch of thick white hair on his head.
“Hallo, love,” he said, tossing off his knit hat. Still a spring in his step, she thought.
“How are you feeling, Eva?”
“Good,” she said, and she let him hug her.
“More or less,” she added.
That’s my old Eva, Gabriel thought. In that one phrase, he recognized layers of her psyche at work. She had been a dental lab technician, crafting the tiniest contours of the human tooth. Good at it, too, but crippled by perfectionism. She could never finish anything for fear it would not be good enough. Never be too hopeful. To be hopeful is to be crushed when perfection is missed. She felt good in his presence; he knew that. And through the lens of that goodness he could see all the folds her beauty. Her features themselves, well, all her life she had been known for plainness of features. And look at her now. Still the round boyish face, the pixie haircut, but with more gray. Yet she knew how deeply Gabriel saw in her plainness a pristine beauty. And she loved it. But no, it raised insufferable expectations.
“More or less,” she repeated, and they held each other’s gaze for one second more, a second in which each recognized the other’s penetration, saw their hidden graces and flaws exposed, the little psychological mechanisms that they could not control and that seemed so serious at other times, reduced to mere curiosities when unmasked by trusted eyes.
“Should we go into Boulder?” asked Gabriel.
“Yes, let’s,” said Eva, and down they went through the winding canyons.
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Gary Gautier.
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!